The natural alternative: tips for selling wood siding in markets that favor man-made materials

The natural alternative: tips for selling wood siding in markets that favor man-made materials – Product Info

Stephani L. Miller

While natural wood siding has long been a favorite of builders homeowners in some regions, it’s facing a decline nationwide. A recent NAHB Research Center study shows the overall market for wood siding (shakes, shingles, and clapboard styles in cedar and other woods) has declined 2 percent in recent years–from a total of 9 percent in 1997 down to 7 percent in 2002 for both new construction and repair/remodel. Yet dealers across the nation are finding ways to keep sales of the product up and sell enough wood siding to make it a worthwhile SKU to keep in inventory.

For dealers, the first key to selling wood siding is developing an intimate knowledge of the type of customers who purchase the product. “You have to be able to ferret out the customers who use the siding,” says Dick Cooper of Manufacturers Reserve Supply in Irvington, N.J., a distributor of Maibec cedar siding (circle 101).

Targeting the correct customer–typically the higher-end builder or remodeler–is crucial, agrees Tom Barclay of Ganahl Lumber in Los Alamos, Calif., a dealer of Shakertown (circle 102) and Cedar Valley (circle 103) siding brands. For example, in his region, dealers know to target wood siding to specialty markets because it can’t compete with fiber-cement, hardboard, or vinyl on a large scale, because builders’ buyers see those categories as lower maintenance and less expensive alternatives that offer a look similar to wood.

These consumer preconceptions are playing a large part in the shift to fiber-cement and other man-made products, even in areas where wood siding is preferred, which makes smart selling critical. Cory Jameson, general manager for Kitty Hawk, N.C.-based Guy C. Lee Building Materials, says that even though the North Carolina coast craves natural wood shakes and shingles, “Cement siding is our biggest seller.” To help him sell cedar shakes and shingles and LifePine pressure-treated shakes (circle 104), Jameson keeps a log of where products have been installed, and directs customers to visit the homes to see what they look like. “It’s not something that many dealers do, but it’s certainly an excellent selling tool,” Jameson says.

Dealers who offer value-added services for wood siding, such as installed sales, prestaining, or prepriming, can differentiate themselves as full-source providers. Paul Abrams, installed salesperson for Stock Building Supply in Wilmington, N.C., says he aims to sell wood siding installed, rather than per piece. “Most of the time, because we control the labor and material and our installers are factory trained, it can cut down on callbacks,” he says.

Partnering with local prestainers is a good option, says Dan Servello, yard manager for INR Beatty Lumber Co. in Orland Park, Ill., because you can potentially avoid some of the weather-induced problems homeowners may associate with the product, such as warping, cupping, and splitting.

Nate Bond, director of sales for Parr Lumber in Hillsboro, Ore., a dealer of Weyerhaeuser CedarOne (circle 105) and Interfor cedar siding (circle 106), uses a comprehensive strategy of advertising, displays, staff training, and value-added services. Advertising with a campaign focused on quality, price, and one-stop shopping is key, concludes Bond.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Hanley-Wood, Inc.

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